On Wednesday was the eating disorders lecture for the medical school that I attend, and even though I will have to sit through it next year, I decided to watch just because I was curious about what the lecturer would say. I remember not liking the way it was presented my first year, but saw that it was a different person this year. The overall lecture still kind of sucked – just like my first year, I think it overemphasized the weight aspect as opposed to the mental aspect.
However, there were two things the professor said when talking about anorexia that show me that I have a seriously skewed perspective when it comes to thinking about my own eating disorder. First, when she said “these patient’s will really, severely restrict their food intake,” I was expecting her to follow that up with something like “some will even go days without eating anything.” But instead, she said “some will only eat 300-500 calories a day.” Honestly, my first thought was “seriously? 300-500 cals/day is what I was eating before going inpatient, and to me that was just ‘a little restricting.'” The second thing she said that caught me off guard was when she was talking about hospitalization. She said “those who are severely underweight, usually less than 80% of ideal body weight, may need to be inpatient in a medical or psychiatric hospital.” I was totally caught off guard again, as I was expecting her to use a percent like 60-65 when talking about “severely underweight.” Most of my inpatient admissions my weight was between 75-80% and I always thought of myself as just a little underweight, not severely.
So, clearly I have a skewed perspective when it comes to severity, and I think that’s because I compare myself to the people who do come into inpatient not having eaten for days and being 60% or lower. I have never thought of my eating disorder as “severe” because of these comparisons. Let me emphasize, however, that when I say “my own” eating disorder, I really do mean just mine. If a friend told me they were restricting down to 500 calories a day (or even 1000), or weighed anything less than normal, or was bping regularly, I would be like “ok, you need more intensive treatment NOW.” I bet if I were to see an empty case file with my symptoms and stuff before inpatient, I would say “that person needs help now.” But for me, I have these weird double standards that lead to me just never thinking I am sick enough.